The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has activated a multi-agency response plan following the confirmation of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in domestic birds in Benton County. WSDA will work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) in this response.

Public domain image/Ben Rudiak-Gould
Public domain image/Ben Rudiak-Gould

There is no immediate public health concern due to the avian influenza virus detected. Avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which remain safe to eat. As always, both wild and domestic poultry should be properly cooked.

The H5 avian influenza virus was confirmed by the Washington State University’s Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman. It was found in birds from a backyard poultry flock near Benton City. The flock of approximately 150 birds includes domestic waterfowl with access to the outdoors. There is also a pond on the premises frequented by migratory birds. The virus has not been found in commercial poultry anywhere in Washington or the United States.

The bird owner contacted WSDA after experiencing the loss of nearly 50 birds in the past week. The virus is similar to the virus found in a Washington captive gyrfalcon last month, although additional testing is being conducted to further identify the strain of the disease.

The State of Oregon continues to implement its multi-agency response plan following the discovery of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza (HPAI) in a flock of backyard birds in Douglas County. There have been no new detections of the virus in Oregon at this time.

On December 19, 2014, HPAI H5N8 was confirmed in a Douglas County backyard bird flock near Winston, killing 20 guinea fowl and 2 chickens. This is the same virus strain found in a captive gyrfalcon in Whatcom County, Washington. Avian influenza naturally resides in wild birds and it is fairly common for waterfowl to carry various strains of the virus.

As a result of the findings, some countries have placed restrictions on US poultry exports, including exports of poultry and poultry products from the States of Oregon and/or Washington and, in a few instances, bans on all US poultry and poultry products.

In fact, as of Wednesday, 30 countries have restricted poultry imports from the US. These include: Taiwan, Philippines, Mexico, Singapore, Indonesia, Canada, Nicaragua, Barbados, Dominica, Uruguay, Guatemala, St. Lucia, Curacao, Cuba, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka , Japan, Peru, Colombia, Belarus, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Turks & Caicos Islands, New Zealand, Korea, Russia, Jordan, Western Samoa (Samoa) and Macedonia.